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Opposing NAFTA expansion
Thu, 30 Nov 2000


Fair Trade Activists will remember that the NAFTA fight of '92-'93 was the original mother-of-all legislative and field fights over corpoate managed trade policy in this country. It was a narrow and emotional loss for the proto-Seattle 'blue-green' coalition.

The transnational corporate 'free trade' lobby is still pushing to expand the flawed and failed NAFTA model. We must continue to resist its anti-worker, anti-environment agenda (esp now that we enjoy the momentum, and what with the FTAA negotiations near done).

/s/ Mike Dolan

  1. Public Citizen press release on this week's NAFTA ruling against safe hightways.
  2. Financial Times piece about the NAFTA border trucking issue.
  3. Call from Chiapas. Repeal NAFTA. Oppose the FTAA.

NAFTA Truck Ruling Imperils U.S. Public Safety

NAFTA's Plummeting Image: Now Safe Highways Are a Trade Barrier

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Katie Burnham (202) 454-5102

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a NAFTA dispute tribunal issued an interim ruling that could jeopardize the safety of everyone who drives on America's highways. The panel ruled that the U.S. is violating NAFTA by prohibiting unsafe Mexican trucks from roaming freely throughout the U.S. Under NAFTA rules, if the U.S. does not agree to open the border to Mexican trucks, it faces trade sanctions.

Public Citizen urges the U.S. government to work to obtain a reversal of this interim ruling. However, if the final NAFTA panel ruling remains against the public interest, the U.S. must accept the trade sanctions and in the name of safety, keep the border closed.

"The safety of our highways must not be compromised, no matter the price," said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. "Keeping Mexican trucks within a limited border area is essential for the safety of U.S. highways. The serious safety problems with the Mexican truck fleet have not been addressed since President Clinton first refused to open the border. Granting unlimited U.S. highway access to deadly Mexican trucks was then — and is now — an astoundingly bad idea." Claybrook served as the top U.S. auto safety official in the Carter administration.

U.S. Department of Transportation data show that Mexican carriers licensed to operate in the U.S. are more than three times as likely to have safety deficiencies as U.S. carriers. Common safety problems include faulty brakes, tires, taillights and brake lights. The problems found with Mexican trucks are among the top causes of serious crashes. In Mexico, trucks are allowed to carry heavier loads. Mexican truck drivers have no hours-of-service limitations compared to the limits set on U.S. drivers of 10 hours of continuous driving. While operating in the U.S., Mexican trucks are supposed to comply with U.S. standards, but the U.S. does not have enough inspectors to ensure that trucks crossing the border follow U.S. regulations.

"This ruling is exhibit A in the case for why NAFTA is a backwards, damaging agreement that the public dislikes more each time it trounces public safety in the name of an extreme corporate-managed trade agenda," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.

Added Claybrook, "This ruling is particularly galling because it allows unelected bureaucrats essentially to overturn American laws and safety standards. It is also appalling that the ruling was based on trade alone; the panel refused to hear evidence about safety and the risks that the trucks pose to the American public." ###30###
For more information about Public Citizen, please visit


Copyright 2000 The Financial Times Limited Financial Times (London)

November 28, 2000, Tuesday London Edition 2


LENGTH: 856 words

Nafta offers Mexico freedom of the road:
The US may have to open its borders to its neighbour's trucks, regardless ofsafety concerns. Edward Alden and Andrea Mandel- Campbell report


BODY: On a late winter day in 1998, US highway safety inspectors pulled over a Mexican commercial bus bound from Tijuana to Las Vegas.

The driver spoke no English, carried no logbook and no medical card. The bus, which had inexplicably stopped in the middle of the road, had no recordof annual safety inspection, no permits from US highway regulators and was missing several lights and its left front shock absorber.

Such cases are not unusual, according to studies by the US Department of Transportation. Of the 35,000 Mexican commercial trucks inspected at the US border in 1999, 40 per cent were forced out of service for serious violations of safety rules.

Despite those numbers, a dispute-settlement panel set up under the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) is expected to rule soon that the US must open its borders freely to Mexican commercial trucks. The US made that commitment in the Nafta negotiations but has refused since 1995 to adhere to the agreement. If it still refuses after the panel decision, Mexico has warned that it will impose punitive trade sanctions.

The ruling promises to reinvigorate Nafta critics, who have long charged that the trade pact will force the US to weaken its domestic regulations to serve the demands of freer commerce.

Lori Wallach, of Public Citizen, a consumer activist group, calls the case "one of the most dramatic examples of how so-called trade agreements such as Nafta reach far beyond appropriate commercial issues".

She says that a backlash against Nafta and the World Trade Organisation is growing because people fear that the trade rules will "dictate domestic safety, health and other policies that dramatically affect people's lives".

The dispute has festered since US President Bill Clinton, under pressure from the powerful Teamsters' union, which represents US truck drivers, refused to open the US border to Mexican trucks. Mexico brought the case before a Nafta panel in 1998.

Supporters of unfettered trucking, which include most US trucking companies and the border state governors, say the restriction is hampering the movement of goods in one of the world's fastest-growing trade relationships. Trucks currently haul about 80 per cent of the two countries' Dollars 200bn (Pounds 143bn) in bilateral trade.

Under the current regime, Mexican trucks arriving at the border must transfer their loads to so-called drayage, or short-haul trucks.

These trucks cross the border, where the load is again transferred to a US truck for delivery to its final destination, an inefficient system that lengthens backlogs at border checkpoints. The situation is "anarchy", says Jose Martinez, the president of the Free Trade Alliance, a pro-Nafta group in San Antonio, Texas. "If we really mean free trade, then the trucking provisions have to be enforced," he said.

James Giermanski, the director of international business studies at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, adds that inspections of Mexican long-haul trucks caught illegally in the US have showed fewer safety violations than the average for US trucks. "There has never been any evidence that Mexican long-haul carriers are unsafe," he said. "It is a gross exaggeration that is all the result of politics."

US transportation officials also say there has been substantial convergence of safety standards in the two countries over the past five years.

But even supporters of an open border acknowledge that regulatory differences between the two countries need to be reconciled. Mexico permits heavier trucks on its roads than does the US, does not require front-axle brakes, and allows drivers to work longer hours without time off.

Opponents say that differences such as these invite more accidents on US highways. US insurance companies, which stress that they support Nafta, warn that lack of adequate inspection at the US border could result in many unsafe Mexican trucks on US roads. In 1998 only 1.6 per cent of the 4m trucks crossing into the US from Mexico were inspected.

The issue has probably become far too political to be resolved by sober discussions of regulatory and inspection requirements.

George W. Bush, who may be the next US president, has said the US should abide by its Nafta obligations.

But a full opening of the border to Mexican trucks will invite a backlash from Nafta opponents and their supporters in Congress, perhaps threatening Mr Bush's longer term ambition for a western hemisphere free-trade pact.

If Vice-President Al Gore makes it to the White House, he is expected to defy the panel's ruling. The Teamsters' union fears competition - Mexican drivers earn a fraction of US wages - and Mr Gore would be unlikely to anger the unions that played such a vital role in his campaign.

But Mexico is already warning that it will not stand to see the border closed any longer. Luis de la Calle, Mexico's deputy trade minister, calls the current regime "pure discrimination".

If the US defies a panel ruling in Mexico's favour, he said, "Mexico will not seek compensation, we will just implement sanctions".

OWC CAMPAIGN NEWS - distributed by the Open World
Conference in Defense of Trade Union Independence & Democratic Rights, c/o S.F. Labor Council, 1188 Franklin St., #203, San Francisco, CA 94109.
Phone: (415) 641-8616 Fax: (415) 440-9297.
Visit out new website at <>.


Dear Sisters and Brothers:

We just received an important Appeal from a trade union, community and peasant convention that took place November 18 in San Cristobal de las Casas (Chiapas) in Mexico. It is an invitation to workers and activists in the United States and Canada to participate in a Tri-National Conference of Workers, Students, and Activists, to be held in Mexico City in April 2001, in preparation of the International Workers' Conference Against Deregulation and For Labor Rights For All, which will take place at the end of 2001 in Germany. The Appeal from Chiapas spells out the themes of the April 2001 gathering:

We will translate this powerful Appeal into English, along with an extended introduction, in the next few days.

In the interim, we are sending the original Appeal to those of you who speak or read Spanish and who undoubtedly will appreciate fully the importance of this appeal. Need we only remember that the Zapatista uprising began on January 1, 1994, the very day that NAFTA went into effect. One of the first demands raised by the rebellion was "No to NAFTA!"

Almost seven years later, seven years of devastation and pillage, NAFTA must go — so say the participants in the Assembly of San Cristobal, thereby echoing the countless numbers of unions and organizations across the United States and Canada that have reached the same conclusion.

In Solidarity,

Alan Benjamin,
for the OWC Continuations Committee

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